Thursday, November 30, 2006
Guess the correct number of "Conscience of Congress"es - win a prize
He was? Why just last month Democratic Underground noted that “David Broder wrote that [Hamilton] Lee was the "conscience of Congress." The Congressional Black Caucus modestly applies the same moniker to itself (even as they seek William Jeffersons re-election). Of course, there is a school of thought that claims that “everybody knows Joe Lieberman is the "conscience" of Congress.” Someone at Mills College gives this title to Congresswoman Barbara Lee. But what about Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul (or is he the more specific Constitutional CofC?). Doonesbury fans will probably want us to remember former Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick who supposedly was the model for the comic’s Lacey Davenport. Then again, Congressman John Lewis fans have their own case to make. Anyway, you get the idea – if you’re ever on Capital Hill, it seems just about everyone will answer to “conscience of Congress”.
Anyway, we were sharing a lament with David Broder over his current CofC’s electoral defeat. So how did this happen?
“But the big force," Leach said in a conversation in his nearly empty office, "was the accountability thing -- the overwhelming dissatisfaction with the Republican Congress."
Well, count me among the dissatisfied with the Republican Congress and that’s in large part due to Republicans like Jim Leach. Mr. Broder notes two factors that also may have played into the Congressman’s defeat: his role in pushing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and his support for embryonic stem cell research. The former is simply federal meddling in private actions and the latter is not the proper purview of the federal bureaucracy. And if that fed into his loss – that’s fine with me.
Nationally, much has been made about voter unhappiness with Iraq. But Mr. Leach quite famously was the only Iowan not to vote for authorization. His district is heavily Democratic (Mr. Broder notes that it had the highest vote for John Kerry of any Republican incumbent). After 30 years maybe, just maybe, the voters there decided that instead of voting for a Democratic poseur, they’d just go ahead and vote the real deal.
...and please stay tuned to see whom David Broder designates next as our "Conscience of Congress".
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
“In Congress, the minority life is mostly talk and little action, and yet for advocates of minimal spending and low taxes, that may not turn out to be so bad. It's easier to promote fiscal discipline in theory than to practice it as a party leader or committee chairman.”
So goes the theory – and as a conservative, I certainly hope the GOPers still left rediscover their backbone and make it difficult for Dems to raise taxes or increase social spending programs. So where can we expect the first fight?
“The first showdown will come over the alternative minimum tax, which Democrats have vowed to address early in their tenure. Adjusting the tax so that it will not envelop another 20 million or so middle-class families will cost $50 billion-plus per year, official estimates show. The incoming House Ways and Means chairman, Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), has vowed to pay for the fix, but that could be politically difficult.”
The first showdown? Does Mr. Murray think Republicans out there want to keep a broke AMT system in place? The AMT system currently in place is from the 1993 Tax Bill that didn’t have a lot of Republican support but did have Mr. Rangel’s. The problem is that the AMT exclusion-levels haven’t risen to keep pace with incomes and, accordingly, this original effort to soak-the-rich is now ensnaring many of the hallowed Middle Class.
It is to the Republicans discredit that they did not fix this problem – instead they’ve been applying patches to it annually trying to freeze the number affected by this. But now Mr. Rangel claims he wants to fix it – good for him – most of us would support the effort except there’s this:
“Pelosi has promised within the first 100 hours of her leadership to impose a pay-as-you-go spending rule, which requires that any new tax cuts or spending increases be offset by spending cuts or tax increases elsewhere.” Tax issue presents dilemma for Dems
Yep – any fix has to be “paid” for and that could get pricey. So the issue is not going to be support for a fix of AMT – I think most are onboard with that – rather it’s going to center around what taxes are going to be raised to offset the loss of revenues a fix would entail. That could be the impetus for a showdown.
Side note: “In the 110th Congress, fiscal conservatives will act as chief defenders of the numerous temporary tax cuts that Republicans have passed since President Bush took office. Breaks that benefit wealthy individuals are particularly unpopular with Democrats, but particularly cherished by fiscal conservatives, who believe low tax rates at the top of the economic ladder fuel growth.”
Although I do kind of like his juxtaposition of Democrats and fiscal conservatives, this statement is just a rewording of the tired stereotype of Republicans favoring the rich.
First off the biggest break that benefits the wealthy is that we don’t tax wealth. Hence multi-millionaires such as Ted Kennedy and Jay Rockefeller can inherit millions and pay no taxes on them for years. What we do is tax high-income people – in other words, productivity. And no matter what happens to the top tax rates, the high-income earners will pay a disproportionate amount of the total tax burden. (The top 20% pay over 60% Effective Federal Tax Rates Under Current Law, 2001 to 2014)
And these so-called breaks are not “cherished” by fiscal conservatives nor do we do believe that low tax rates at the top fuel growth. What we do believe – know – is that taxes are a disincentive to production. So we believe that lower tax rates are preferable to higher. The current tax rates are not the reason for our recent economic successes; they just represent less of an impediment to such success.
The Placebo that is Sarbanes-Oxley
“Business interests, seizing on concerns that a law passed in the wake of the Enron scandal has overreached, are advancing a broad agenda to limit government oversight of private industry, including making it tougher for investors to sue companies and auditors for fraud.”
Calling them “concerns” is a bit of an understatement – Sarbanes-Oxley (SOx) is one of the worst pieces of legislation to pass in recent memory. Passed in the wake of Enron, the law adds significant regulatory requirements for publicly-held companies while creaing a new oversight board for auditors (the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.- PCAOB).
It’s fair to ask, I think, would SOx have prevented Enron? Doubtful. PCAOB wouldn’t have had done anything with Andersen – they were generally recognized as among the most prestigious of audit firms and some of the new regulations wouldn’t have directly dealt with the problems at Enron. For example, the requirement for independent outside audit committees doesn’t eliminate the fact that the directors on those independent committees are still getting a check from the corporation for their work as directors. No evidence that a typically assembled committee would have sniffed out the problems at Enron.
And let’s remember – the problems at Enron were sniffed out. The market reacted and people have gone to jail. How would that have been fundamentally different under SOx? Yes, investors lost money. Investors lose money everyday. But investing inherently involves risk. I never seriously thought of putting any money into Enron; not because I was prescient but because I could never quite explain what they did for a living.
…and just to keep things in perspective, let’s review all the changes and requirements Congress imposed on our UN contributions in the wake of Oil-for-Food.
It's not discrimination when we do it
Ms. Marcus is very upset that some parents in Seattle and Louisville are themselves upset that their children’s choice of schools can be dependent on their race. Of course it’s not her kids who are being used to assuage some local school boards angst over the past but still... Now few subjects touch me off as much as this modern-day thinking that diversity – as and when defined by the left – is a worthy basis for policy decisions. And that’s all this is: skin-deep diversity for skin-deep diversity’s sake.
Ms. Marcus tries to succinctly encapsulate the cases. Ms. Marcus succinctly gets it wrong:
“A half-century after Brown v. Board of Education, it's come, amazingly, to this: The Supreme Court, in the name of preventing race discrimination, is being asked to stop local schools from voluntarily adopting plans to promote integration.”
Well, local schools long ago “voluntarily” adopted other plans which also differentiated students based on race. The cases discussed here are about whether local school boards can assign (or not assign) students to different schools based on skin color. And in typical leftist fashion, the pro argument is “of course, as long as we’re doing the assigning and our hearts are pure”. Also typically, Ms. Marcus is not arguing that the federal government stays out of all local school systems – just the ones where like-mindeds aren’t in charge.
I have mixed feelings on the cases as I generally prefer letting state and local entities go ahead and make asses out of themselves. Living in Baltimore Maryland, I’m used to it. And I don’t want to go all Chicken Little on the matter; these school selection systems aren’t all about race: preference and siblings are also important factors. And the effect on the student populations as a whole seems small (unless you happen to be the one directly affected). But such instances of respect for federalism must be across the board – it has to be an all or nothing interference policy or else we’re just stuck with selective imposition of leftist policies.
Ms. Marcus lays out just why she thinks such social gerrymandering is a good idea:
“For years the federal government has given money to schools, including money for programs that explicitly take race into account in making school assignments, to encourage efforts at integration.
“And for good reason: Students -- and ultimately society -- benefit when black children and white go to school together. These cases don't present the harder, zero-sum issues of affirmative action; no one's being denied admission. Indeed, creating more integrated public schools could help bring about the day when affirmative action in higher education is no longer critical to ensuring a diverse student body.”
This is just so much historical revisionism. The federal government’s earlier efforts were aimed (and often mis-aimed) at instances where students couldn’t go to a school solely because of their color…which is exactly what the parents here are claiming can happen to their children.
Most indicative of my suspicion that she really doesn’t understand these cases is her statement that: “These cases don't present the harder, zero-sum issues of affirmative action; no one's being denied admission.”
No Ms. Marcus, this exactly what they do: children can be denied entrance to a particular school that they want to attend because the school has too many of a certain skin color or another school needs some more of a certain skin color. They then have to go to another school. It is no different than Elite U. denying admission to someone because they have too many Asians. Inside Higher Ed :: Too Asian?
I’ll respect an argument that federalism should trump here as long as that argument is consistently applied. But Ms. Marcus and her ilk seem more interested in just keeping the federal government out of their imposing-on-society exercises in feeling good about themselves…and they'll tell you, as usual, it’s all about the children; just not their children.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
A reluctant Al Sharpton comes out of hiding
First paragraph: “Once again a hail of police bullets has ended the life of an unarmed black New Yorker, and the city's mayor finds himself walking an uncertain line between reassuring black and Latino residents and defending his police force.”
Second paragraph: “With a City Council member saying that black people are being "murdered" and some black clergy signaling their discontent with Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R), who is white,…”
Fourth paragraph: “In a visible symbol of Bloomberg's concern, he was accompanied by a number of prominent black pastors and politicians, including activist preacher Al Sharpton and Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.).”
Okay, we get it – this has all the makings of yet another example of a stereotypical racist police force killing blacks just for the hell of it. In fact it’s so bad that the normally reclusive Al Sharpton even “…journeyed to the Community Church of Christ in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens and vowed that he was going to "keep this in the street." I mean, who saw that one coming? – Al Sharpton putting himself in the limelight while putting a racial spin on an incident.
…later we learn (11th paragraph!): “…that the Hispanic officer who opened fire was a 12-year veteran and apparently thought the car was trying to hit him. Three of the five officers who fired shots were black or Latino.”
That doesn’t sound like a police force put together and trained by noted Democratic Party member (did I get that right?) Bull Connors, does it?
We also learn that an undercover officer apparently had initially tried to stop the men but “[t]he men tried to pull away in their car, scraping the leg of an officer. An officer fired a shot, and four more officers pulled out their 9mm guns and began shooting.”
But of course this version of events is deeply buried in a story that opens with the pandering: “Once again a hail of police bullets has ended the life of an unarmed black New Yorker…”
Fortunately, after wading through the trite, predictable blatherings of Al Sharpton, Donna Lieberman (of the so-called NY Civil Liberties Union) and of course the Mayor, we do get a voice of reason:
“Maki Haberfeld, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor and specialist in the use of deadly force, said she was not inclined to second-guess officers operating under stress at night. "There are distorted perceptions of time and motion, and fear and adrenaline, and it takes 20 seconds to fire 50 shots," she said. "I'm taken aback by how the mayor indicted these officers. How could he know?"
…and this from academia! I just hope this doesn’t do too much damage to Ms. Haberfield’s career.
One happy by-product of my time as a Criminal Defense attorney is a deepening respect for the men and women of the various area police forces. For the most part they are professional, ethical and want to get it right. I don’t have all the facts in on this incident and it certainly is deserving of investigation but, generally, if all I know about an occurrence is that the police have one version and Al Sharpton has another…well… Tawanna Brawley.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Wine Tasting on Thursday November 30th...includes Beer
Fine Wine Tasting
featuring Local, Domestic & International Wines,
Festive Buffet & Holiday Silent Auction.
Microbrews will also be served.
Thursday, November 30th, 2006
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. (the Ravens don't play until 8:30)
The Engineers’ Club
11 West Mt. Vernon Place · Baltimore, Maryland 21201
R.S.V.P. with payment Tickets: $40.00 in advance (on-line available)
[personal check, Visa or MasterCard] $50.00 at the door
via USPS by November 15th · on-line by November 27th
Tickets sold in advance will be held at the door.
Valet Parking Available [$8.00]
Sunday, November 26, 2006
All Global Warming, All the Time
“Available on DVD November 21, Al Gore presents a compelling look at the state of global warming. But (sic) two and donate one to a school. Buy Now!”
But Al Gore sycophant and Inconvenient Truth producer Laurie David isn’t stopping there:
“At hundreds of screenings this year of "An Inconvenient Truth," the first thing many viewers said after the lights came up was that every student in every school in the United States needed to see this movie.
“The producers of former vice president Al Gore's film about global warming, myself included, certainly agreed. So the company that made the documentary decided to offer 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for educators to use in their classrooms.” Science a la Joe Camel
But students everywhere can heave a brief sigh of relief. The teachers apparently said no.
Predictably, Ms. David thinks this is just awful…and probably the fault of reliable bogeyman Exxon-Mobil. Turns out the NSTA gets some money from Exxon and Ms. David thinks the teachers’ group may be afraid of losing a funding source were they to accept the Gore group’s largesse. In fact, she goes on and on about this: connecting dots where none exist.
“[NSTA] also hosts an annual convention -- which is described on Exxon Mobil's Web site as featuring "more than 450 companies and organizations displaying the most current textbooks, lab equipment, computer hardware and software, and teaching enhancements." The company "regularly displays" its "many . . . education materials" at the exhibition.”
“So, how is any of this different from showing Gore's movie in the classroom?”
Simple. The materials Exxon distributes are made available to the teachers at forums and the like. They are clearly the product of Exxon (or whoever) and do not bear the imprimatur of the NSTA through such distributions. What Laurie David and her cadre want here is the equivalent of a “teach in” highlighting their slanted and distorted viewpoint. And they want the NSTA to be their delivery system. If indeed there are some 50,000 DVDs taking up space in some LA warehouse, they should be able to set up some kind of distribution system that avoids the middleman (the NSTA) and goes directly to the teachers. Or perhaps they can make it 451 companies and organizations at the next NSTA annual convention.
Side Note: Apparently this is Global Warming day at the Post. An editorial discusses the case going before the Supreme Court later this week - Massachusetts v. EPA – wherein Massachusetts and others of the usual suspects are complaining about not enough Federal regulation (our own Baltimore City signed onto this). In this case, many think the EPA should be regulating CO2 emissions. Reading the Post editorial, you may wonder what the issue is as they more or less call Massachusetts the winner on the merits in just a few paragraphs. Not emphasized within is the fact that the case is going to the Supreme Court on appeal…and not by the EPA. Which means Massachusetts et al lost the earlier round so there just may be some legal merit to the EPA’s position. Climate in the Court
In another story, the Post calmly notes that self-preservation is forcing wild species, businesses, and planning officials to act On the Move to Outrun Climate Change.. At first glance, I thought this was just going to be another piece on how people move to Florida for the winter and so was going to blow it off. But am I glad I didn’t. Instead I find that Post writers Blaine Harden and Juliet Eilperin dispassionately report on different reactions to warming trends, all the while avoiding any hint of political bias and being careful to differentiate between acknowledging global warming and identifying exactly what’s causing it.
Ha!! C’mon now – I clearly identified this as in the Washington Post. But I guess there is just no getting around the fact that, for billions of years, the earth had been a model of stability – that is until Satan spawned white men. Perhaps, with George Allen no longer around, the Post has found a new pet project.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
The International Criminal Court gets tough on Darfur
Here “World Court” refers to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and it’s looking grim for those bad guys in Darfur:
“The International Criminal Court has found sufficient evidence to identify the perpetrators of some of the worst atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region, and the probe offers "reasonable grounds to believe" that crimes against humanity were committed, chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the annual meeting of the court's member states in The Hague.”
Just a few niceties to get out of the way then, I guess, the perpetrators will be brought to justice:
“The prosecutor must determine whether the Sudan government is carrying out an inquiry into the same incidents and individuals. If there are not "genuine national proceedings," he said, he will present his evidence to the judges.
"We are almost ready," he said.”
Seriously, he said that. He will now be determining whether the Sudan government is going to do anything about all this. Apparently, these educated international legal types are the only people with any kind of tangential interest in this matter to not know the answer: Hell no, they’re not going to do anything about any of this.
The problem here is that all this pontificating by the ICC obscures a rather significant fact. Here, respected Washington Post Foreign Service writer Nora Boustany explains:
Actually, she doesn’t say a thing about what I consider a rather significant hurdle to the ICC doing anything about this. But first a primer; here is a relevant passage about what the ICC can do:
The International Criminal Court was established by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, so called because it was adopted in Rome, Italy on 17 July 1998 by the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court. The Rome Statute is an international treaty, binding only on those States which formally express their consent to be bound by its provisions. … Today, 103 States have become Parties to the Statute. “
I’ve scoured the list – the name Sudan does not appear. True, this matter was referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council (the US is not a signatory to the ICC – thank God – so abstained on that vote) and the ICC claims jurisdiction in such instances but…who here can picture a scenario where the ICC/UN unilaterally goes into Sudan for the purpose of initiating an ICC prosecution. It’s too ludicrous to even think about.
It is apparent to me that this whole ICC investigation is just a colossal waste of time and money undertaken so that international tsk-tsk’ers can prance about The Hague pretending to be doing very important work. It is the appearance of caring without doing anything of substance (including not even going to Darfur during the nearly year-and-a-half investigation). Worse, it acts as deterrence to strong action by international players. Poor Darfurians are no doubt waiting for the wheels of justice in this matter to reach what seems to most a painfully obvious resolution...but they’ll be waiting awhile: this thing isn’t moving anywhere.
The Democratic Party. Did I say it right?
Washington Post editorial today: What's Yours Is Mine
“…in Prince George's County, where some local politicians treat county-issued credit cards as publicly funded lines of credit, and where County Executive Jack B. Johnson flies first class or business class at taxpayers' expense. In Prince George's, several County Council members seem to think there's no reason to reach into their own pockets for haircuts, gym memberships, rental cars, office decorations, family vacations or golf outings when they can whip out their county charge cards and reimburse the public in their own good time -- or not.”
Not stopping at Jack Johnson, to their credit, the Post names names:
“…the worst offenders are council members David Harrington, Camille Exum and Thomas R. Hendershot.”
“…council member Marilynn Bland, then a school board member, charged the county for a family trip to Disney World.”
I guess space did not permit the Post from identifying the party affiliation of each of those named. Prince George's County, Maryland - Government, Legislative Branch
Friday, November 24, 2006
...and Bonzo probably knew more about economics than Steven Pearlstein
Yeah, I know there are more pressing problems to be concerned with but this guy of late has really begun to annoy me with his prominent display of economic ignorance. Here’s what he is currently nostalgic about:
“Not only did it cost more to see Clark Gable in "Gone With the Wind" than Ronald Reagan in "Bedtime for Bonzo," but the ticket price also varied depending on whether you saw them in a first-run movie house downtown or a second-run theater in the suburbs, and whether you took in a matinee or an evening showing. And "ladies' nights" were a real bargain.”
(Chalking it up to my perhaps sensitivity to such things, I’ll not make much of what I perceive is his gratitutious (and not original) dig at Ronald Reagan as a B-grade actor.)
Perhaps wanting to display an understanding of rudimentary economics, he rhetorically asks:
“Wouldn't they sell more tickets and popcorn, and make more profit, if they increased the price when demand is high, and lowered it when demand is low?”
This is all part of a lament over his inability to understand why movie theaters don’t vary their ticket prices like they used to.
Uhh, Steve, they do.
I may attend only 2 movies a year but his criticism just didn’t sound right. So I went online to see about ticket prices:
AMC Tysons Corner – Saturday Novembe 25, 2006:
If I want to see the 11PM showing of “Let’s Go To Prison”, a ticket will cost me anywhere from $9.50 (adult) to $6.50 (child).
The 8PM showing of “For Your Consideration” - $10.00 (adult), $8.00 (senior)
The 3PM showing of “Deck the Halls” - $8.00 (adult). $7.00 (child)
The 10:55AM showing of Borat - $6.00 for all
MovieTickets.com. Purchase movie tickets online.
If I’m not in a rush to see a movie, there is always the Arlington Cinema N Drafthouse (and I still miss the Bethesda version). At the Cinema N draft I can watch second run movies such as “Pirates of the Caribbean” for $5.50 this weekend. And if I don’t mind going this Monday at 7PM, I can see it for a buck ($1)…and enjoy a cold beer while watching in a comfortable seat.
So, in a matter of minutes, I found a local theater that had varied pricing on different movies and for different times. I also found a local theater specializing in cheaper second run movies.
But I’m guessing that’s all irrelevant because this is probably just something that Mr. Pearlstein wanted to vent about...but not take a stand on.
“It remains an open question whether variable pricing would, on balance, be good or bad for consumers -- discounts for some could well be offset by higher prices for weekend tickets to hit movies.”
For this to make sense, he’d have to believe that, under the current system, consumers of the less-popular movies are subsidizing the more popular movies. And more incredibly that the movie theaters are underpricing the hits.
But a contention of his article is also that the less-popular movies are over-priced and could possibly bring in more revenue with lower ticket prices. Perhaps the lower ticket prices would bring in enough new customers so as to offset the discount in ticket price. I guess he thinks this increase in revenue would then be offset by increasing ticket prices on the more popular movies so as to lower their demand and decrease their revenue and…wait a minute, let me start over.
China the Munificent
“Wang Guangya, China's U.N. ambassador, said that China is filling a vacuum left by the West. "The major powers are withdrawing from the peacekeeping role," he said. "That role is being played more by small countries. China felt it is the right time for us to fill this vacuum. We want to play our role."
Excuse me if I don't get all teary-eyed over such altruism. China is the most populated country in the world, has an economy estimated at perhaps the 6th largest and, oh yeah, has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. While 1,648 troops sounds nice, looking at some of the countries ahead of it – including Bangladesh (9,655), Ethiopia (2,568) and Nepal (3,522) (UN peacekeeping contributors) – kind of puts their sacrifice in perspective. (Yes, I know, the US is listed at only 303 but that number does not include, for example, US forces in Afghanistan – where UN forces are also – or in Korea, where our presence helps support a UN-backed cease fire.) A responsible China would be a welcome addition to the world at large; it ain't there yet.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
"Well, it's not like he's another David Koresh"
The first paragraph lays out the problem…as post writer Dan Eggen sees it:
“Former attorney general Janet Reno has taken the unusual step of openly criticizing the Bush administration's anti-terrorism strategy -- joining seven other former Justice Department officials in warning that the indefinite detention of U.S. terrorism suspects could become commonplace unless the courts intervene.”
She then went onto expound on her Waco Doctrine whereby any trampling of constitutional rights is reserved for enactment against only US citizens and only when they participate in non-Muslim religious cults.
…well she might have…had Mr. Eggan asked her.
There are some legitimate legal issues here since Mr. Marri was here in the US legally and was arrested on US soil. Fair enough. And this administration isn't exactly batting a thousand in its handling of the Constitution (i.e. - McCain-Feingold) But when it comes to handling suspected terrorists, I believe theirbehaviour has been fair and appropriate...and that their reading of the law on this is correct. Moreover. whatever the fallout from this case, one Qatari national (which we later learn is what we’re talking about here) 5 years after 9/11 is hardly the final nail in the Constitution’s coffin.
For some, the President is not ic'cy enough
And apparently so was Ms. Marcus. Her column today, One Syllable of Civility, has her taking on the President on a matter that apparently has been roiling DC for months. She is courageously calling on the President to:
“…stop referring to the opposition as the "Democrat Party" and call the other side, as it prefers, the Democratic Party.”
If he was to do so, Ms. Marcus believes he “could change the tone in Washington.”
Now I believe I’m a fairly well-informed citizen, keeping abreast of the issues of the day but honestly, this is the first I’ve heard of this problem. Of course, part of me is now kicking myself for not being aware that Democrats considered the term “Democrat” derisive. I mean I’d consider it an insult to be called a member of the Democrat Party but I never though they did also. I would long ago have been hurling that epithet around had I only known that it pained them so.
Still, if you randomly asked 100 self-identified Democrats (Democratics?) about the term “Democrat” I doubt you’d find even two who express hurt and dismay at the term. There'd be a similar result with Republicans and their awareness of the hurtfulness of that term. Ms. Marcus has just given this so-called insult new life.
Not content with that, she goes on to find other examples of Republican rudeness:
“In the few weeks since the election, the president has followed up his syrupy rhetoric of cooperation with a series of face slaps: pushing the doomed nomination of John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations, resubmitting the equally doomed nominations of a quartet of offensive judicial selections and naming a physician to head the federal family planning program who works for clinics that refuse to offer birth control.”
I’m not sure why it offends Ms. Marcus to force that other party to actually go on record with their policy differences. John Bolton has been our finest ambassador to the UN in decades – if the non-Republicans don’t like him, they can vote against him (along with King RINO, Lincoln Chafee). That’s government, not rudeness. The same goes for Mr. Bush’s fine set of judicial nominees – it is well within the parameters of polite society to demand an up-or-down vote on a nominee; even if those who don’t sit with the GOP have a negative reaction to them. And I don’t think Emily Post is aghast at the President’s nomination of Eric Keroack to head the federal family planning program – esp. as the HHS Nominee Has Prescribed Birth Control (also in today’s Post – and I will save for another rant the wisdom of even having a federal family planning program).
There is a certain surrealness to Ms. Marcus being so worked up about this verbal tic of the President’s and its impact on civil discourse in Washington. Last April she swooned over the man that I consider the godfather of incivility, Ted Kennedy and in the news of late is this exchange between Leslie Stahl and Nancy Pelosi:
“Pelosi has called her Republican colleagues “immoral" and "corrupt,” and has said they're running a criminal enterprise.
"I mean, you're one of the reasons we have to restore civility in the first place," Stahl remarks.
"Well actually, when I called them those names, I was being gentle," Pelosi says. "There are much worse things I could've said about them." Lesley Stahl Profiles The Woman Who Could Become the Next Speaker Of The House - CBS News
…but Ruth Marcus thinks we’re just a “DemocratIC Party” away from a Capitol Hill group hug.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Breaking News from Scott Wilson: Israeli critics critical of Israel
“An Israeli advocacy group has found that 39 percent of the land used by Jewish settlements in the West Bank is private Palestinian property, and contends that construction there violates international and Israeli law guaranteeing the protection of property rights in the occupied territories.”
Peace Now is an Israeli advocacy group only in that it is based in Israel and it advocates. No one familiar with the group would be the least surprised to hear that it has issued a report that is critical of Israel – that’s what it does for a living; criticizes Israel. Anyway the 38-page report essentially says that Israel shouldn’t be where it is.
Now these reports can be somewhat tedious to read. Fortunately, we have Scott Wilson to do our dirty work and report back to us. After his no-doubt exhaustive review of this paper, which is, after all, the subject of his reporting, he concludes:
“The 38-page report offers what appears to be a comprehensive argument against the Israeli government's contention that it avoids building on private land, drawing on the state's own data to make the case.”
Well, that’s good enough for me…well, maybe not. So I went ahead and read the report and am somewhat under-whelmed at its comprehensiveness. It declares that nearly 40% of the settlements are on “Private Palestinian Land” which they define as:
“registered land recognized by the State of Israel as the private property of Palestinian residents and cultivated agricultural land that was not declared "State Land" and was not purchased by Jews”
Chime in if I’m misreading this but that reads like the Palestinians get credit for land they own as well as land not specifically allocated elsewhere…and I haven’t yet found within the report just what that breakdown is.
In an apparent attempt to illuminate their analysis, they include this helpful tidbit:
“Thus, for example, the settlement Ofra, established in 1975 on an abandoned Jordanian military base, was constructed mainly after 1980, almost completely on private lands belonging to the residents of the neighboring village of Ein Yabrud. This is the case, as well, for dozens of additional settlements and outposts, which were knowingly built, in whole or in part, on privately owned Palestinian land. The most extreme example is Elon More itself, which was moved to a new site following the court's ruling. According to the data of the Civil Administration published below, over 65% of the land of this settlement is privately owned by Palestinians.”
Now I’ve read and re-read this paragraph and it just confuses me. Ofra was taken by the Israelis after Jordan abandoned the military base there in the Six Day War. A few years later, Jews are settling on it. So when did the residents of nearby EinYabrud take ownership? Did the Jordanians lease their military base from Palestinians? Were the Jordanians also “illegally” occupying this land? So many questions…
And when that paragraph reports that Elon More is 65% privately owned by Palestinians “according to the data of the Civil Administration published below”, that published data is little more than their compilation of said data subject to their suspect (to me) interpretations. In other words, just about everything in this report seems to represent Peace Now’s biased slant on this issue.
Admittedly, Peace Now may be onto something here but you simply can’t conclude that based on this report. I’m sure the Israeli government will prepare some kind of response to this report; because of Chicken Little’s like Scott Wilson, they almost have to. Until then I’m going to hold off on any overwrought reaction to this latest broadside against Israel.
Stock market at all-time high...women & minorities hit hardest
But not today. Nope – today Mr. Kinsley wildly springboards off the celebration of Milton Friedman’s genius to alert us as to some imagined nefarious goings on in the capital markets. Michael Kinsley - A Capitalist Swindle.
“The free market cannot be setting the right price for financial assets such as shares of stock because often there are different prices with equal claims to be the product of free-market capitalism. They can't all be right.”
His point is that public companies are often bought up by private investors, re-packaged and then sold off at a higher price. He believes this is inherently unfair to the poor public investor who sells out (willingly) to the rich private investor.
“Defenders of this procedure say it's not that the stockholders have been swindled. It's that the company is actually far more valuable in private hands because managers -- even the same managers as before -- can manage far better without the constraints of public ownership, with its meddlesome stockholders and nettlesome regulations. Maybe so. But if these deals aren't a swindle, then the stock market itself is a swindle. It does not maximize value for its working- and middle-class investors. The stock market leaves money on the table waiting for "private equity" to swoop down and pick it up.”
Very simply – and I’ll try to put it in words that even a Harvard Law graduate like Mr. Kinsley can understand – the stock market price normally reflects a minority interest price. This is a simple reflection of common sense – owning a non-controlling interest in a company is worth comparatively less – on a per-share basis – than owning a controlling interest. That’s why offers to buy up a company come in at a premium over the current market price. (This is also true politically – the value to a party of an incremental Senate seat is worth a lot more if it brings you to 51 votes vice 41 – which is why Joe Lieberman isn’t publicly shunned by his former party mates). The use of this concept is particularly prevalent in estate planning as a tool to reduce a potential estate’s value (and consistently upheld by courts).
And Mr. Kinsley’s lament that the stock markets do “not maximize value for its working- and middle-class investors” is just populist preening. The markets don’t have different values for the likes of the rich like Ted Kennedy, Jay Rockefeller and John Kerry (to name three at random). Their stock holdings have the exact same per-share value of a particular stock as that neighborhood investment club that meets down the street. Still, if the stock market truly does have piles of money just waiting on that proverbial table for “private equity”, why not just beat them to the punch? Mr. Kinsley’s a smart guy (c’mon – he went to Harvard Law) - he should organize a restrictive private equity fund. It could be limited to that most maligned of peoples – working and middle-class investors – and, from the way he describes the markets, would be practically a license to print money. I mean, where’s the risk?
Finally, I am resisting a whole screed about his “maybe so” response to the observation about managing better without “meddlesome stockholders and nettlesome regulations.” Such an observation is so patently obvious that I find his “maybe so” just another indication of a deficiency in his understanding of economics and business. Hell, Sarbanes-Oxley alone can tilt the balance in favor of private ownership.
Want a scary thought? Michael Kinsley is probably indicative of the brain trust that now informs the ruling party of Congress.
Trust us! We know what's best for you.
“With Martin O'Malley's election as governor and the return of one-party rule to Annapolis, Maryland's liberal interest groups are reawakening to a world of possibilities.”
“Liberal interest groups” is a delightful bit of understatement. These groups listed include the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative, Progressive Maryland, the League of Conservation Voters and, of course, Maryland’s uber special interest group - the Maryland State Teachers Association. With all the earnestness they can exude, they will tell you why their pet project is of vital importance and why they need to be an integral part of the implementation of said project. The Post alludes as to how Martin O’Malley had resisted making promises on some of these initiatives – notably the $1-a-cigarette-pack increase to fund some so-called health initiatives – but does anybody really believe that he can continue such rejections now that the elections are over?
Sigh…all I can think is…BOHICA!
Monday, November 20, 2006
Solar business is too good not to subsidize...
“Expansions like BP's add another reason -- along with environmental concerns and national security -- for the boosters of solar, wind power and biofuels to use in pleading for more government support in the form of purchases, targets, import limits, subsidies and tax breaks for alternative energy.”
Yeah, that’s a great business model; pretty much just mimicking Microsoft’s game plan. I’m sorry but I’m still waiting for my local shale oil gas station to open up. Realistically, the only sure-fire way to make these alternative energy sources economically viable is to let the market decide if and when they come of age.
Of course, that could be a problem here in Maryland because we won’t have to worry about rising energy costs and alternatives to our current energy suppliers for the next few years. You see, we’re lucky; we got Martin O’Malley coming in to be our next governor. I’m confident therefore that Constellation will gladly continue to supply us cheap energy...if only for the honor of being located in such a business-friendly state.
This all makes me appreciate our oil, coal and electrical companies even more. They have to go through considerable risk and expense to bring oil and coal to the surface, transport them considerable distances to convert them into a viable energy source for delivery to us. Meanwhile, solar companies just have to throw a solar panel on the roof...and yet somehow we still find it cheaper to go the coal and oil route.
Finally, this being the Washington Post, a gratuitous slam at our current economy is de rigueur:
“Many of the jobs are good ones, in contrast to the low-wage food-service jobs that have bolstered employment statistics without improving quality of life for the people who hold them.”
…but I’m guessing those “low-wage food-service” job holders are still better off than those now and soon-to-be laid off newspaper workers around the country who are losing their “good” jobs because, collectively, they haven’t been doing a very good job.
Do something on Darfur...so we can criticize you on it
(How do I know it’s now politically advantageous? Would you be reading this: Senator Clinton Repeats the Need for Urgent Action on Darfur, if it wasn’t?)
Darfur, like Rwanda before it and Uganda today, is a foreign policy sinkhole – with almost no good alternative staring at us. Today’s Op-Ed in the Washington Post by John Prendergast - So How Come We Haven't Stopped It? – makes this point inadvertently in a piece obviously intended to be critical of the current administration.
“As Darfur descends further into hell, all signs explaining the United States' pathetic response point to one man: Osama bin Laden.”
Mr. Pendergast’s then goes onto outline how this administration’s obsession with Osama has caused it to soft-pedal our response to the Darfur problem. (Meanwhile, from elsewhere on the left, the accusation is that we’re not obsessed enough with Osama)
Fair enough. There’s little doubt that our response to Darfur, as with any international problem, isn’t made in a vacuum. Competing priorities play into what is an appropriate response. And watching from afar, the instinctive response is that we have to do something. But these kinds of pieces all seem to tip-toe around just how far the pundits are willing to go to “do something”.
While the President gets hammered repeatedly for going it alone in Iraq (even though, of course, he didn’t), he is getting hammered here because…he won’t go it alone?
“The United Nations and other groups have accused Sudan's government of arming Arab militiamen known as the Janjaweed to bomb villages and crush the rebels. But [South African President] Mbeki said: "It's critically important that the African continent should deal with these conflict situations on the continent. And that includes Darfur. And therefore, indeed, you will notice that we have not asked for anybody outside of the African continent to deploy troops in Darfur. It's an African responsibility, and we can do it." In Break With U.N., Bush Calls Sudan Killings Genocide
Like John Edwards’ piece a few weeks ago on Uganda, left unsaid here is whether Mr. Pendergast is willing to put U.S. troops in harm’s way in order to restore order in Sudan? Does this then become our M.O. in similar situations? Do we more or less tell Africa we think their response is pathetic (and it is) and try our own way?
I’m guessing these lefties can’t actually come out and say that…which relegates their writings to little more than public displays of piety, adding little to the debate of what to do about Darfur.
Side Note: Mr. Pendergast writes: “Indeed, Washington's constructive engagement with the Sudanese regime is as ineffective and morally bankrupt as the Reagan administration's approach to the apartheid regime in South Africa.”
Reagan and South Africa? You're going to completely skip over the 90's and, I dunno, the Clinton administration’s response to Rwanda?
Well, Mr. Pendergast does note Mr. Clinton’s lament over not doing anything about Rwanda but Mr. Pendergast was also a member of the Clinton Administration so...any more questions?
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Reaping what you sow
Not sure of the answer but we do know who asked Northern Virginia to once again put Congressman Moran to be in a position where he can do things like…be Jack Murtha’s muscle.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Right for the wrong reasons
“The world's trading system has been progressively opened since 1945, largely thanks to U.S. leadership. This has been one of the great achievements of the American era…”
It would seem the Post was in danger of making economic sense but there was method to their madness: they manage to come off as economic illiterates in doing so.
“Because the expansion of trade has coincided with a rise in inequality, many American voters are understandably skeptical of its benefits. But the Democrats must respond to that concern by implementing tax and spending policies that distribute prosperity more evenly, not by abandoning the nation's role as the chief driver of trade liberalization.”
Yep, the value of international trade can best seen in its potential to allow the Democrats to implement “tax and spending policies that distribute prosperity more evenly”…sigh, Milton, we could use a few more years from you.
Side Note: Washington Post writer Steven Pearlstein also has a piece on Mr. Friedman in today’s paper: Friedman Debunked the Gospel of Keynes
He opens thusly:
“One thing that baffles those of us with no training in economics is that two people who hold diametrically opposite views can both be held out as giants of their profession.”
”no training in economics” …this is the business columnist for the Washington Post (and this educational background also explains many of his columns).
Friday, November 10, 2006
Were the Montgomery County Police trying to frame our future Governor?...perhaps to help Doug Duncan?
“When asked about the report noting that he refused a breathalyzer test, O'Malley said "Actually I didn't...it happened 20 years ago...and if I had refused I would certainly have a record of that suspension.
“Later, the mayor's staff clarified O'Malley's comment saying, "If he in fact had declined the breathalyzer then his license would have been suspended for six months and his license was not suspended for six months."
As it is, I have been involved in a fair number of drunk-driving cases – no, not for that…as Defense Counsel!! I admit not being familiar with 1987 laws and regulations but do know the rules are stricter now than they were then.
As to the suspension: Yes, a refusal can get you a suspension but…a first time refusal nowadays only gets you a 4-month (120 days) suspension, not six months. And you have the right to request an administrative hearing before such a suspension can go into effect (but if you don’t request one, the suspension is automatic after a period of time). At an administrative hearing, if the state fails to produce all the required paperwork or the officer’s presence was requested and he doesn’t show, then a suspension will not be imposed. Don’t know what the rules were back then but I doubt they were stricter as to DUI punishment. If I’m wrong, someone please correct me.
So the absence of a suspension doesn’t necessarily vindicate the Mayor or prove the officer was lying on his reports. But…was Martin O’Malley pulled over at 4:55 in the morning with alcohol on his breath, put through a series of field sobriety tests, arrested and brought to the station, only to NOT have a sobriety test offered? Because this is what we are faced with:
1. Martin O’Malley had nothing to drink (as the police report states he said), was unfairly put through a field sobriety test, was unfairly deemed to have failed those tests and accordingly, unfairly arrested. It was only at the station then that justice prevailed and the future Governor was released to the custody of his father without even being asked to go through the ignominy of a breathalyzer test.
2. Martin O’Malley had three beers (also as the police report states he said), was put through a field sobriety test, was deemed to have failed those tests and accordingly, arrested. Once they got to the station though, the police never bothered to try to get a breathalyzer although they took the time to twice note his refusal to take one.
3. Martin O’Malley was indeed driving drunk and the arrest went down as the police report indicates.
Mr. O’Malley comes across as if he can barely remember this event – after all it was twenty years ago. But this Mayor came out of the womb running for office and it simply doesn’t pass the sniff test that he is foggy on the details (unless of course he really was foggy at the time). Anyone with his ambitions would surely remember such a potentially career-derailing moment. And the legal machinations that followed. And the mental squirming that must have gone on in deciding how to report it on a Bar application.
“O’Malley was later found not guilty, after a motion to suppress evidence was granted by the judge.”
I don’t know what evidence was suppressed or on what grounds the motion was granted. My experience is that such motions are preliminary and, losing such a motion, the state will usually fold its cards and not prosecute. Which is not the same as a “Not Guilty”. Again, I wasn’t there and maybe the case did proceed but it’s not like the state to attempt to prosecute without the necessary evidence.
Martin O’Malley’s memory lapses and a careful parsing of a lack of suspension have made this a bigger story than it should have been. Our future Governor was 24, arrested and got off. Congratulations. Whether he was indeed innocent or just benefited from a police mistake or is an example of what privilege can bring, our conclusion as to which can only come from our assessment of the actors in this story…and I have a lot of respect for the Montgomery County Police – then and now.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Wall Street hearts Nancy Pelosi
Instinctively considered inane because, no matter your political persuasion, most of us probably do not consider the congressional Dems as a group prone to buoy investor confidences. But here’s why the elections are portrayed as a positive for investors:
“…investors grew more confident that a huge victory by Democrats in congressional elections would result in gridlock and keep lawmakers out of the way of business interests.”
I don’t discount such reasoning – the idea of governmental gridlock causes me absolutely no angst and is a phenom I’d like to see more of. And I hope President Bush dedicates his final two years in office to totally thwarting the Democratic vision – whenever and whatever enunciated.
But somehow I just don’t think AP writer Tim Paradis has the requisite underlying market sophistication to make such a sweeping observation. Here’s more:
“…an undecided Senate race in Virginia had during early trading unnerved investors who dislike such uncertainty. Stocks showed gains after the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.”
I’m sorry but that just strikes me as wishful thinking disguised as market analysis. I just can’t picture too many money managers - controlling sums sufficient to move market averages – were sitting on piles of cash just waiting for Donald Rumsfeld to leave town. I wonder how many stockholders’ reports for investment entities will reflect rummy’s departure as a valid new-found cause for optimism.
UPDATE: Pillage's comment is spot-on: Democrats' Victory Halts Stocks' Streak
(and, for the record, I think most of this instant market analysis is crap)
Part of the problem was a lack of machines – the election board sent nine over but experienced numerous problems before being taken out of service. Another factor in the delay was the length of the ballot. In addition to the various elected offices, numerous charter amendments and bond issues awaited the voter. The average voter then spent nearly eight minutes voting on the machine. I give the voters there a lot of credit for sticking it out.
Obviously I am disappointed with the results. My frustrations are directed at the voters (i.e. - if you voted for Martin O’Malley instead of Bob Ehrlich because of Iraq, you’re a moron), the Republican congressional (lack of) leadership (a more unimpressive group we could not invent) and the President (Harriet Miers, immigration…and now Donald Rumsfeld?).
…but such comments and reflections should wait because I’m tired (I got back from the polling place at 3AM) and not in a good mood and am looking forward to few beers tonight to regroup, refresh and remind myself that no matter how bad it seems, well, …I could have been born a Frenchman.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Tuesday, November 7, 2006 - Please Vote!!
Outside the Maryland, Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania) is especially recommended for return to the US Senate.
UPDATE: My brother correctly points out that I screwed up the date - which I've corrected solely for sake of posterity.
Which Martin O'Malley is Bill Clinton referring to??
Anyone recognize this O’Malley guy the former president is referring to?
Being the Mayor of Baltimore is a tough job and anyone in that position can hardly be held directly responsible for all the city’s woes – particularly long-standing problems like crime and failing schools…but still, they can be somewhat accountable and let’s face it - Martin O’Malley just hasn’t accomplished anything of note in the areas of safer streets and quality schools, despite his relentless pursuit of Middle Class values.
Baltimore Crime Statistics are just scary. The only one time I remember Martin O’Malley even addressing crime in the city was while announcing his choice for city Police Chief (oops, mea culpa…I guess that was more than one time…more like seven times…) And the most prominent action Mayor O’Malley has yet taken on city schools was to cajole his fellow Dems in the State Legislature to prevent the state from taking over eleven of the very worst schools in the city.
…as for Middle Class interests, puh-leez!! Is there a single “middle class” couple that has moved to Baltimore the last 4-5 years because of the safe streets and excellent educational opportunities? I’m guessing not - if only because otherwise the O’Malley campaign would have made their poster couple.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Voter participation is less than 50%..but it's the new ID laws that are really gonna suppress the vote
“Republicans and their allies assert that the identification requirements and other rules will lessen voting fraud. Democrats and their supporters contend the changes are ploys to suppress voting among poor, elderly, minority and disabled citizens, who are prone to support Democratic candidates.” Democrats Predict Voter ID Problems
This, of course, is ridiculous. The day-to-day activities that require us to show some sort of ID surely have to also affect the “poor, elderly, minority and disabled citizens.” Cashing checks, a driver’s license, renting an apartment – c’mon, these things don’t happen in a vacuum – somewhere along the line the market adjusted and people adopted to these requirements. Why should the requirements to enter a voting booth be so much less stringent than entering a night club?
Of course, the Post loves anecdotes and it begins its PAGE ONE STORY with the sad tale of Rep. Julia Carson:
“The Democrat, seeking to represent Indianapolis for a sixth term, showed the card to a poll worker, who told her it was unacceptable under a new state law that requires every voter to show proof of identity.
“The law compels voters to show an ID, issued by Indiana or the federal government, with a photograph and an expiration date. Carson's card was for the 109th Congress, but did not say when the session ends. "I just thought I was carrying the right thing -- if you have a card that has a picture and shows it is current," she said.”
Don’t you just love that arrogance? Everyone is supposed to know that the “current” Congress is the 109th but Rep. Carson is to be excused from not fully knowing the election laws in her own state. Kudos to Washington Post writer Amy Goldstein for zinging Indiana with that “gotcha”.
Then we learn why this is all so unneccessary:
“Mary G. Wilson, national president of the League of Women Voters, said identification laws, particularly ones requiring photo IDs, are "odious" and added: "There is very little evidence there's been any kind of voting by people who are ineligible to vote. We view this as basically another unnecessary hurdle voters are being put through."
Uhh Ms. Wilson – Two words: Cook County
Then there is the woeful tale of a Ms. Jowana Peterson of Indianapolis. Ms. Peterson “…lost her wallet with her license inside a few weeks ago. When she went to replace it, she brought a copy of her birth certificate from Chicago, her Social Security card, her ID card from her job as a financial planner and four utility bills. "They turned me out cold," she said, telling her she needed a new birth certificate from Cook County. ... Because she had signed up to work at the polls on Election Day, she was eligible to get an absentee ballot, but she worries about other would-be voters who cannot get one -- or do not know to ask.
“Even so, she says, "I feel pretty cheated. I am an American citizen. I've paid my taxes. I feel the system kind of let me down. It shouldn't be that hard."
Let’s examine just how the system let her down. I just went through a major hassle as to the correct form of a birth certificate needed to get a passport so I’m kind of sympathetic as to her problems there. Still, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles is fairly clear as to the format of Birth Certificate required (IN BMV ID requirements). But I know my SS card clearly states it is not to be used for ID purposes. I know that most job ID cards (especially one for a financial planner – those jobs don’t exactly require a background investigation for a security clearance) don’t give a hint as to just how good a driver you are or whether you're even eligible for one. And utility bills? Electric companies only care about your ability to pay – not your talents for parallel parking. So why did she expect to get a driver's license out of all those documents?
See, what Ms. Goldstein leaves unchallenged in all this is just what the difficulty in obtaining an Indiana driver’s license has to do with whether the Indiana voting law requirements are too onerous. Indiana isn’t picking on Ms. Peterson because she’s a Democrat (how do I know she’s a Democrat? Like the Post would care about her story if she was a Republican?). The hurdles she is leaping to replace her lost license are exactly the same as they would be were this instead November 2007. And as we learned from the first story about Rep. Carson – all Ms. Peterson needs is a photo ID with an expiration date that is issued by Indiana or the federal government.
Oh wait – she doesn’t even need that – she’s getting an absentee ballot!
…just another example of why we all need to be down with the struggle as the Man continues to beat down the people. Peace. Out.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
The Doug Gansler Bandwagon
The Constitution's to blame
Mr. Mann is seemingly none-too-pleased that:
“In part, the electoral importance of small towns reflects a profound rural bias hardwired into our political system. The Constitution grants two Senate seats to each state regardless of its population. As a consequence, a majority of senators are elected by voters in 26 sparsely settled states that together contain less than 18 percent of the country’s population.”
This is bad because:
“If rural America embraces Republicans with the same fervor it did two years ago, Democrats will almost certainly be denied a majority in the Senate and may fall short in the House.”
SD correctly points out that “[h]aving a bicameral legislature gives Congress the chance to check the outsize influence of the less populous states in the Senate” so I won’t belabor that point of seemingly constitutional obviousness. Instead, I was struck by this passage from Mr. Mann’s piece:
“And the Republicans are working feverishly to mollify and re-energize their rural base with talk about same-sex marriage, abortion, gun rights, public Christianity, terrorism and immigration — all issues that play brilliantly in small towns. The Republican National Committee has cranked up its sophisticated get-out-the-vote machine, combining phone and mail prompts, pastor-and-pulpit networks, conservative talk radio and door-to-door canvassing.”
They play brilliantly in big towns too…or that’s what the left wants you to believe. Listening to the left and its public faces in Congress, you’d think that same-sex marriage was something all decent Americans agreed on; that Abortion on demand was a mainstream thought; that the second amendment was an anachronism the majority eagerly sought to mute; that true Christians could be only be liberals; that Bush and Cheney were the true terrorists and that unchecked immigration was a national blessing.
In 2004, the national press was all agog gog over the sophistication of Howard Dean’s internet fundraising prowess; Air America was to be the rational person’s answer to conservative radio; there was hardly a predominantly black church that didn’t have at least one prominent Democrat preach to the masses and ACORN, MoveOn and of course the hugely funded Americans Coming Together (ACT) were all about sophisticated GOTV efforts.
I’m also left wondering if Mr. Mann isn’t just part of a new leftist consensus that the Constitution just isn’t fair. University of Texas law professor Sanford Levinson has a new book out on the subject and touched on it in a recent piece in the LA Times: Our Broken Constitution. What really riles Professor Levinson up is the power small states have via the Electoral College and, of course, the Senate. Now this “problem” has been around for awhile but I guess the recent GOP success with these institutions has highlighted their inherent unfairness.
Still, the shallowness of their analysis leaves me unimpressed. Maybe Mr. Levinson addresses it in his book (I haven’t read it) and maybe Mr. Mann has a ready answer but why would the less-populated states ever have wanted to join a Union of more-populated states if their views and concerns could be effectively overridden by the urban behemoths? Why would Delaware or Maryland have wanted to cede effective control to NY, Massachusetts and Virginia? What would have been in it for them? We know the advantages to the larger states: more land & more taxes at a minimal dispersion of power...Ah yes, some things never change.
(as a side note to Mr. Mann’s article, though, Professor Levinson notes that Democrats also benefit from the small state syndrome:
“The Democrats, for example, draw their leadership almost exclusively from small states. Over the last 30 years, that party's leadership has come from Montana (Mike Mansfield), West Virginia (Robert Byrd), Maine (George Mitchell), South Dakota (Tom Daschle) and Nevada (Harry Reid).”)
Where are the Demagogues??
“Revenue for Time Warner, the world's largest media company, rose 7 percent, to $10.91 billion for the quarter, and profit jumped to $2.32 billion from $853 million.”
(but The Washington Post chose to go with the negative: AOL's Revenue Drops 3 Percent)
To save you from reaching for the calculator, that’s a 21% profit on revenue. What does Time Warner do for all that money? They give us Time magazine, CNN, Warner Bros. movies, cable television and, of course, AOL internet service.
Reaction from liberal members of Congress, media mavens and so-called consumer activists was swift and savage:
“California Democrat Barbara Boxer says the Bush Administration must: “put an end to gouging." Illinois democrat Dick Durbin wants congress to talk about legislation that would channel record …profits back to consumers.” Reaction to…Profits
“…industry profits are out of line. Bill O’Reilly calls them “unconscionable.” Sen. Carl Levin deems them “absolutely obscene.” Max Schulz on...Politics on NRO
“Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., called the company's profits "grim news for American consumers who are paying through the nose ..." ...record profit
“But the profit was high enough to annoy some consumer…groups. The company's head of investor relations quickly acknowledged the frustration during a conference call with analysts.
"Although our company benefits from these conditions, we do recognize the impact today's high…prices have on consumers and family budgets," said …vice president for investor relations. “...hefty profits - The Clarion-Ledger
Sorry, my mistake: those are some of the recent past reactions to Exxon’s approximately 10% profit rate.
So, to recap:
Exxon – selling a non-glamorous product that employs no actors, newspaper reporters or TV talking heads - makes about 10% on sales…gets ripped for it.
Time Warner – selling CNN, Time, movies and the internet – makes about 21% on revenue…yawn.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Ehrlich unfairly closing in on O'Malley
Today, they report that here in Maryland, the Governor’s race is a tossup.
“The Maryland governor's race is a virtual tie less than a week before Election Day, as Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s relentless attacks on Mayor Martin O'Malley's record on crime and schools have eroded the Democrat's support in the Baltimore suburbs, a new poll for The Sun shows.”
I’m guessing the Sun is just PO’ed because their own relentless attacks on Governor Ehrlich apparently aren’t as effective as the ones they highlight the Governor is making on Mayor O’Malley. The tone of the article seems to suggest something nefarious:
“Through expensive television and direct-mail advertising, Ehrlich appears to be convincing voters in the Baltimore suburbs that O'Malley has failed to effectively reduce crime and improve city schools. Using his huge cash advantage, the Republican governor has steadily whittled down the mayor's lead in overwhelmingly Democratic Maryland.”
The Sun then goes into refuting the Ehrlich claims by persuasively showing just how effective Mayor O’Malley has been in reducing crime and improving the city schools. Ha!! Of course not. I mean, how could they? Instead they throw out this little tidbit:
“The mayor has unleashed his own advertising barrage, and is attempting to portray the governor as an advocate for big business and other special interests instead of working families. The poll indicates that O'Malley's message also is effective.”
Huh? Any more effective and he’s asking Kathleen Kennedy Townsend for advice on how to make the campaign close.
The reporters, Andrew A. Green and Doug Donovan, then go to the voter-in-the-street. Remarkably, despite this being as the Sun puts it, an “overwhelmingly Democratic Maryland”, they can’t seem to find any Democrats to get a pulse on what’s going here.
They talk to a Lewis Cave who is voting for Ehrlich – no party affiliation noted. They talk to William Wright who is identified as a Republican but will be voting for Mayor O’Malley. Ehrlich’s support for Bear hunting was cited as one of the reasons.
David Brooks is just mad at Republicans so he wants Ehrlich out. The article doesn’t tell us which party Mr. Brooks belongs to – only that he used to work for UPS and he’s black. A Ms. Dottie Moore is also described as black but says she will be voting for Ehrlich. Although the Sun doesn’t openly say so, I’m going to infer she’s probably a Democrat because she’s quoted as saying "I haven't deserted the Democratic Party".
We also hear from moderate – no party affiliation noted - Diane Newsome who usually votes Democratic but will vote for Governor Ehrlich this time because he won’t raise her taxes. Finally we read the comments of the only other explicitly party affiliated voter in the article - Richard Kurtz. Mr. Kurtz is from Easton and he’s also a supposed Republican but - what are the odds - he’s going to vote for Martin O’Malley. His reasoning though has him coming off as the least informed voter in the lot. Mr. Kurtz voted for Mr. Ehrlich in 2002 so…
"What's changed? A lot has changed for me, as far as stem cell research goes. I'm a heart patient, and I am totally for stem cell research," Kurtz said…and because, as we all recall, Governor Ehrlich Signed a Stem Cell Initiative earlier this year, the Governor no longer deserves…I’m sorry, what was the reason you’re not supporting Mr. Ehrlich again this year? Oh yeah, the Iraq war that Bob Ehrlich has needlessly involved us in.
Anyway, my favorite bit of news from this article is found in the final paragraph:
“O'Malley ...with 49 percent viewing him favorably and 38 percent unfavorably. Those figures have, however, shown what a toll the governor's race and more years of grappling with the city's problems have had on the mayor. Two years ago, when The Sun last asked the question, O'Malley was viewed positively by 59 percent of voters and negatively by just 9 percent.”
Don’t be blaming this on the Governor’s race and two extra years on Baltimore’s payroll. What that poll result is saying is that in two years, an additional 19% of Marylanders have gotten to know Martin O’Malley enough to have an opinion on him – and apparently that whole 19% (on top of 10% of those who used to like him now) view him unfavorably. That just comes from getting to know him…what charisma!!